Report: Suggested tweaks to controversial helmet rule expected on NFL conference call

Jason Owens
The NFL is expected to take on the confusing, controversial helmet rule that has dominated preseason in a Wednesday conference call. (AP)
The NFL is expected to take on the confusing, controversial helmet rule that has dominated preseason in a Wednesday conference call. (AP)

The controversial new helmet rule that has been the on-field story of the NFL preseason is expected to dominate a Wednesday conference call involving league officials, according to multiple reports.

Pro Football Talk first reported the news and noted that the helmet rule wasn’t the initial focus of the previously scheduled meeting. Mike Florio cited a source who said that participants would likely lobby for tweaks to the rule that has confused fans and angered players.

Report: Specific helmet rule changes expected to be suggested

From the PFT report:

“Possibilities include expressly limiting application of the rule to the top/crown of the helmet. As currently written, the rule applies to any portion of the helmet — front, top, side, anywhere. The rule also could be adjusted to, for example, require forcible helmet contact, to exempt incidental helmet contact, and/or to specifically eliminate from the reach of the rule hits from the side, which happen as defensive players chase the offensive player with the ball.”

Replay for helmet rule?

PFT reported that replay might be on the table as well to help officials making quick decisions on a vague rule that’s intended to increase player safety.

“It’s also possible that replay review will be made available to serve as a fallback for mistakes made by officials who are trying their best in real time to identify what is and isn’t happening.”

The rule states that “it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent” and has been the source of a bevy of questionable flags during the preseason.

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Confusion over the rule prompted NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron to post a video on Twitter attempting to clarify the rule. It just made things more confusing.

Report: NFL exec intent on clarifying, not changing rule

ESPN reports that Riveron will present an updated video during the conference call in an attempt to clarify the rule for officials, players and coaches.

From ESPN:

“(The Video) will include proper and erroneous applications by game officials, which one source said has generated a “predictable hysteria” because it is the first time the new rule is being officiated.”

The ESPN source also said the league anticipates a three-year window for players and officials to adjust to the new rule and implement behavioral change.

So from the two reports, it sounds like the NFL is intent on teaching, rather than adjusting the rule during the conference call. At the same time, those league officials should expect to hear plenty from advocates pushing for change.

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